A family business which owns 22 Spar shops stands accused of ‘competing with businesses of retail members and bringing the Spar brand into disrepute’.
Shoppers at various Spar outlets in Richards Bay and Empangeni, as well as in Hartebeespoort, were greeted on Thursday morning by signs on the closed doors, after stores were sealed by the Sheriff’s office in accordance with a High Court application, Zululand Observer and Kormorant reports.
A statement from the Spar Divisional Managing Director Desmond Borrageira, said a decision was taken by The Spar Guild of Southern Africa Limited “to terminate the membership of the stores which fall within the Giannacopoulos Group”, claiming it was “competing with businesses of retail members and bringing the Spar brand into disrepute”.
Assurances were made that the dispute between Spar and the Giannacopoulos Group would not affect shoppers or staff, and that the stores would remain open under Spar’s control.
It is understood that more than 20 stores are affected.
Local multi-store owner Harry Giannacopoulos was not able to attend a scheduled meeting with the Zululand Observer on Thursday to release an official statement, as he was in consultation with his advocates working through the application and preparing a reply.
The locally-based Giannacopoulos Group, in the space of 21 years, has done more than any other family in South Africa to build the Spar brand, purchasing their first Spar, Andrews in Empangeni in 1998, to now becoming the largest privately and family-owned group of Spars in South Africa.
They built their family-owned business to now own 22 Spar Supermarket franchises and 21 Tops Bottle Stores in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, owning more than half of the buildings from where they operate.
With a total staff complement of 2 800, servicing some two million Spar customers each month, to contemplate that without notice, consultation or a fair and equitable due process, that such ex parte action to obtain an urgent court order on what is suspected to be false pretences, is inconceivable that such a well-established family-friendly brand known to all South Africans, such as Spar is, could behave in such a despicable and reckless manner, reads a statement by the Giannacopoulos Group.
Citing debt recovery reasons for their drastic and hostile steps taken by Spar, their action has not only been deemed unlawful, devoid of factual truth and harmful to the businesses and the staff that rely on these Spar stores for their livelihood, but has also affected the many customers that have come to trust the Spar brand and its integrity and goodwill in the market place, the family said.
The Giannacopouloses also expressed their “sincere and deep regret for the inconvenience and frustration caused to Spar customers at their stores, and would like to apologise profusely to all customers and affected parties involved that do business with them, and gives their assurance that all steps will be taken to resolve this matter as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, in Hartebeespoort, the Sheriff and representatives of Spar South Africa were on the scene early on Thursday morning while staff members stood around closed shops.
According to unconfirmed information, the supermarket and liquor store were closed because of debt. The amount is unknown at this stage.
Representatives of Spar South Africa told the Kormorant a press release about the closure would be issued later. It was alleged at the time that Spar South Africa would be taking over the stores owned by the Giannacopoulos Group.